Social justice is a notion that shapes norms, values and practices of individuals and groups within societies, by highlighting social harms, injustices, inequalities and discrimination experienced by individuals and groups a mobilising force is created which challenges and contests pre-existing ideas of what is considered to be just. Through mobilising new ideas of social justice new social welfare and crime control policies are created to regulated and enforced, and resources can be redistributed. There are often ambiguities and entanglements between social welfare, to improve capabilities and well being, and crime control policies and issues, to regulate and enforce. I will be drawing upon examples of social ham and creating social justice from the UK and America, past and present, to illustrate the connections between social harms and social justice.
The idea of what is socially just is based on what is considered to be morally right, political legitimacy and economics. These ideas are seen as generally socially acceptable ways to behave individually and the treatment and behaviour towards other members/groups within society, which are regulated and enforced by laws policies, institutions and organisations. Ideas of what are considered to be acceptable, morally right or the ‘natural order’ of things is changeable over time through personal experiences and beliefs. The ideas of what is (un)just can act as a mobilising force, to make social harms visible, which can lead to creating changes to widely held beliefs and force changes to social policies and laws and become the normative view held within the society. One example of how beliefs of the ‘natural order’ has changed is by the civil rights movement, ‘coloureds’ used to be treated as second class citizens, were not allowed or refused entry into certain places, these, now racist and discriminatory, beliefs where upheld and enforced by laws, such as the ‘Jim Crow’ law, this, at the time, legal segregation caused oppression, exclusion from society and poverty and punitive measures and against and criminalisation of anyone who disobeyed the laws of the time, which are now considered to be racist and discriminatory. In the 1950’s and 1960’s widely held beliefs began to change, society became aware of the social harm, caused by racial inequalities and the unjust treatment, laws changed to criminalise discrimination and colour bars, social welfare policies created to protect ‘coloureds’ rights and inclusion and active participation within society (Newman and Yeates, 2008, p8). The collective mobilisation of individuals to form groups can give greater power to vulnerable, powerless groups to fight against causes of social harm and injustice and to create change. The Civil Rights Movement also led to change and opened up opportunities for other vulnerable groups such as women and the disabled, which provided greater protection, rights and inclusion from the welfare state and legislation. What was thought of as ‘the natural order’ 60 years ago is now illegal in contemporary western society and punitive measures are part of the legal and institutional framework, such as anti-discrimination laws, and racially invoked ‘hate’ crimes. It is now realised that exclusion from actively participating in society doesn’t just harm those excluded but the society as a whole.
One of the cornerstones of the notion of social justice is the affect of poverty and the harm this can cause on individuals, groups and on society as a whole. People who live in poverty are seen as a ‘problem’ population who live in ‘problem’ places and are viewed as being deviant from mainstream society, a source of social harms, such as crime and social disorder and the people are seen as dysfunctional, lazy and criminally minded. Social divisions are created which can cause exclusion from actively participating within ‘normal’ or mainstream society. Welfare states, social policies and organisations have...
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